Exclusive report by Zalina Maizan Ngah
KUALA TERENGGANU, Oct 20 -- The fish stock in the country's territorial waters is now getting less and the size is getting smaller due to human greed.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) Fisheries Gear Technology and Fisheries Ecology senior lecturer Dr. Mohd Fazrul Hisam Abd Aziz said fishermen were able to get mega-sized fish easily 15 years ago compared to the present situation and it was one of the signs of the level of pressure on the country's fisheries stock.
One of the reasons for stock loss was illegal fishing, unreported and uncontrolled (Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU)) fishing.
"The IUU issue, may give a deep long term impact on the fisheries stock in our country. Other than commercial fish, the main victims of IUU activity are fish that are not in high demand on the market.
"For example, turtles, dolphins, whales, turtles, jellyfish and demersal lives such as shells. Some of these lives end up as fertiliser fish and are just dumped in the ocean," he said when contacted by Bernama here recently.
Mohd Fazrul said the pressure on fishery stock became more acute when the fish use per capita in Malaysia increased from 46 kilogrammes (kg) to 55 kg from 2010 to 2019.
It is also expected that fish landing would increase by 2.9 per cent from 2010 (1.23 million metric tonnes) to 2020 (1.76 metric tonnes). In fact, demand for fishery-based products increased from year to year and at the same time increasing pressure on available fisheries stock.
"Fresh fish is in high demand in the markets in the United States, European Union (EU) and Japan. The EU also contributes to 15 per cent of the world's total catch with a value of US$11 billion to US$22 billion captured via IUU.
"This number is very frightening when the world is threatened by increasingly sharpen stock erosion. This high demand causes fishery entrepreneurs to look for a thousand and one ways to meet demand on the market," he said.
According to Mohd Fazrul, among the techniques that are forbidden in Malaysia but which are still used freely are poisons, electricity, ‘rawai’ (multiple hook line) and explosions, to the point of placing great pressure on the fish stock.
The use of ‘tuba’ (poisonous roots) is one of the IUU techniques that is used during the dry season in fresh water when the water is shallow. The use of the poison might also cause fish deaths on a large scale from the juveniles to matured fish.
"This poison may also affect those who eat the fish caught using this technique. Among the characteristics that are easily visible on fish which were caught using ‘tuba’ are bruised stomach which are bluish in colour, in fact the fish smells easily and releases a lot mucus.
"Electricity has also been abused as a method for catching fish. Although, most of those who use electrical equipment to find fish say the fish pass out only temporary but the impact on the internal organs is very great to the point of internal bleeding and the rupture of the swim bladder in the body of the fish, "he said.
Mohd Fazrul added that the use of bombs as a tool for fishing was also used freely without realising that the bombs contained cyanide that might harm those who eat fish from the explosion.
This year alone, he said, 43 bombing cases had been recorded in Semporna, Sabah and the shock waves generated by the explosion also brought serious injuries to the fish's internal organs.
Among the obvious features seen in the fish's internal organs were broken bones and burst intestines and swim bladders.
In addition, Mohd Fazrul said the looting of fishery resources by foreign fishermen was also increasingly rampant although the authorities tried to overcome it, leaving Malaysia with a loss of RM6 billion a year.
In addition, he said, the use of fishing equipment such as the ‘rawa sorong net’ and the ‘bubu naga’ in inappropriate areas also make it difficult for juvenile fish to survive.
‘’The use of multi-hooked lines (rawai) also contributes to IUU fishings. Turtles, dolphins, seagulls may fall prey because they are attracted to the baits on the hooks.
"In addition to continuous surveillance, remote sensing applications and echo estimators may be used to monitor the IUU. Close cooperation between the fishermen and the authorities involved is also very important to ensure the sustainability of fisheries resources," he said.